And here we are at the championship game, with Indiana State wearing the home whites against St. John's in their navy.
I hate our insistence on emphasizing blue uniforms, by the way. We are the Red Storm, not the Navy Blue Storm, so why do we keep trying to switch to blue uniforms?
At halftime, Indiana State is up 31-24, and we can't rebound for love nor money. The only saving grace is that we had three starters on the bench for most of the first half with two fouls, and I'm pretty sure that having Amber Thompson, Jade Walker, and Danaejah Grant available again will be useful. The reserves managed to keep it close, which is more than I expected playing most of the freshmen together.
Ugh. This was a great game until it turned into a ref show. We made stupid mistakes, and Indiana State made some great plays, but the officials made sure that the game went to overtime, made sure that the game went to double overtime, and in general inserted themselves into the game at any given opportunity in a way that would inconvenience a team making a run. I did not pay to watch Brandon Enterline, Norma Jones, and Rachelle Jones.
One of the Indiana State fans thought it would be a good idea to sit directly behind the center court bleachers that host 6th Man when the student section deigns to show up, and is home to the combined forces of Amber and Aliyyah's families in other times. She also believed it would be a good idea to attempt to disconcert Amber at the free throw line from this position. This is not a good idea. Her constant stamping on the bleachers from said position inspired the band to mock her. I'm all in favor of supporting your team, but sitting on the home side of center court and being rude to home fans is not on.
Indiana State went deep, though not as deep as they did yesterday, and that helped them in the end- they had players like Rhagen Smith who were ready and able to step up when Chelsea Small and Racheal Mahan fouled out. She didn't put up big numbers, but she was in the right place at the right time playing defense or boxing out. Jasmine Grier was smooth on both ends of the floor. I like her shot. I don't know if I like her mouth- she seemed to be doing a lot of chirping, and it seems uncouth to be chirping to a reserve freshman when you're a senior. Joyea Marshall did a good job of getting to the line, especially in the latter part of the first half and the overtime. She used her height well. Cierra Ceazer brought the offense and a little bit of rebounding. Alexis Newbolt had some critical plays at the end of the game, and sealed the deal for the Sycamores.
Foul trouble, attentive defense, and a lack of shot selection kept Chelsea Small off the scoreboard for most of the game. That was the one thing we did right. Racheal Mahan was all over the floor- pulling down rebounds, coming up with big shots on the inside, that sort of thing. Natasha Zurek didn't score until late in regulation, but ran the offense with a steady hand. I really feel like I should remember more about Stephanie Wittman, but I thought the guard play off the bench was more impressive than the guard play from the starters.
Coach did something that I thought was smart at the time, but he didn't follow through with it. He watched the second half of the SMU-Indiana State game, and saw that SMU made the second half comeback, so near the end of the first half, with the foul trouble for the starters, he gave the bench heavy minutes. Tonoia Wade gave good defensive effort, but she's got to hold on to those rebounds. Kyra Dunn pulled down one good rebound and was otherwise a source of boundless frustration for her inability to hold on to the ball. Selina Archer's minutes were brief and unremarkable. Tamesha Alexander was actually the first sub in, early in the first half for Aaliyah Lewis's only rest. Crystal Simmons got extended run in the second half as a sub for Aliyyah Handford, and while she looked uncomfortable out there, she didn't look completely out of place.
Poor Aaliyah Lewis is going to break one of these days. She's so tiny, especially in basketball terms, and she gets run into the ground. I think it got to her, and it's going to keep getting to her. Jade Walker, of course, got called for fouls at every opportunity and neer got a good call in her favor. She had a nice second half with jumpers from the short corners, and good boards. Danaejah Grant was good offensively, and she rebounded well, as she usually does, but she was a couple of steps slow on defense, and that killed us when it came to Grier- she was on Grier and Grier used her length to get over her, and Danejah couldn't or wouldn't counter with athleticism. Amber Thompson rebounded strong, but I'd like to see her be more assertive offensively. Defense is her calling card, her bread and butter, and her cliché storm, but she needs to be a complete player. I'm exceedingly grateful that we have Aliyyah Handford. I don't know where we'd be or what we'd do without her. She drove the lane, she hit jumpers- she was a little off her game on defense, though. I miss seeing her play the passing lanes as beautifully as she did at the beginning of the season.
Stupid mistakes. So many stupid mistakes. Stupid fouls. Bad, bad passes. Hurried shots. We didn't think.
And then the ref show started. I'm pretty sure that the little half-circle at the back of the lane isn't just decorative, but this crew seemed to ignore positioning when calling charges. They were addicted to jump balls- there were something like ten jump balls called in this one. For all the travels the Joneses were calling yesterday, there was a distinct lack of them today. Competence would be nice, but at this point, I'm really just hoping for consistency.
I would like to say that Indiana State won this game, that we didn't lose it, that it wasn't given to anyone... but I'm honestly too petty and irked to do that. Indiana State is a good solid team, and a throwback to what Missouri Valley basketball should be, but we should still have beaten them, and I'm worried about conference play more than I was before.